Checking California bulb species

Mary Sue Ittner via pbs
Sat, 06 Jun 2020 17:16:21 PDT
I recently worked on the wiki Brodiaea page so spent a lot of time 
looking at the Jepson eflora key. There have been a lot of new species 
named in the past number of years, mostly on small morphological 
differences and I think this makes identification really challenging for 
some of them, especially since some of these species occur in many parts 
of the state and there is considerable variation in nature and that 
makes writing a key practically impossible. If you have grown bulbs from 
seed and there used to be sources of wild collected seed, a lot probably 
depended on where the seed came from. If plants that were once grown 
from seed that was considered to be  B. californica, but now that has 
morphed into a new species, most people will continue to call it what 
they knew it to be. I've tried to add photos with shared licenses to the 
wiki to help figure the species out.

I decided to write more  about B. purdyi, B. minor, B. nana on the wiki 
since it took me some time to thoroughly understand that change. I grew 
two versions of B. purdyi from Robinett and purchased B. minor from 
Telos. Robert Preston  in 2006 published a paper entitled "A 
Reconsideration of Brodiaea minor (Benth.) S. Watson and Brodiaea purdyi 
Eastwood (Themidaceae), with the resurrection of Brodiaea nana Hoover". 
In it he concluded: ""The results of this paper demonstrate that 
Niehaus’s (1971) concept of B. purdyi, the polyploid small-flowered 
species, with spreading perianth lobes and floral tubes that are 
narrowed above the ovary, and that occurs in woodland habitats in the 
northern Sierra Nevada foothills, applies to the taxon originally 
described as B. minor and as recognized by Jepson (1922) and Hoover 
(1939), placing B. purdyi in synonymy with B. minor." So to correct this 
B. purdyi became B. minor. But he felt the plants then known as B. minor 
were distinct so he resurrected the name B. nana for them. The two 
species are very similar:

Staminode tips erect to spreading , margins 3/4 inrolled; stamens 
narrow-notched at apex between anther sacs; filaments T-shaped in 
×-section = B. minor (was B. purdyi)

Staminode tips erect, margins flat to 1/2 inrolled; stamens wide-notched 
between anther sacs; filaments V- or Y-shaped in ×-section = B. nana 
(was B. minor)

These are not large flowers and I find the distinction between 1/2 to 
3/4 in the margins challenging and definition of wide to narrow notched 
a bit subjective. I changed the names on the wiki according to how they 
had been identified in the past, hoping that was correct.…

The Flora of North America seems to be slow to accept all these changes, 
but Jepson and Kew have. Now that I finally changed them on the wiki 
after putting it off for years, DNA work will probably change the names 

It's been a very dry year for where I live which has been a very 
positive thing for my bulb collection. We've had a little late rain as 
well so flowers that didn't have enough light to flower before or were 
wiped out by the rain or dried up too soon have been putting on quite a 
show. I have seen two southern California Brodiaea species flower that I 
haven't seen for years so obviously they liked it better. And just 
opening is what I've labeled B. jolonensis and I'd say the violet 
staminodes are twice as long as the style on my plants. B. terrestris 
ssp. kernensis also has violet staminodes that are hooded (and taller 
than the style), but the staminodes are notched.

As for whether Brodiaea, Dichelostemma, and Triteleia are easy to grow 
probably depends on the species, the provenance  and your climate. Many 
of the species grow in large portions of California and sometimes Oregon 
so the conditions they are used to vary greatly. On the other hand I 
find it fascinating that I have had such good luck with B. terrestris 
ssp. kernensis which is a Southern California species and terrible luck 
with the one that grows a five minute walk from my house (in the 
baseball/soccer field and is flowering wonderfully this year since they 
haven't mowed). I've saved seed and planted in my grassy areas, 
unwatered in summer, but rarely see any of it. So maybe using this logic 
Nan needs to try Northern California species.

On another interesting note and going along with the comments from Jane 
and Robin about how some of these tolerate water when dormant, I noticed 
some Brodiaea elegans growing in a Meyer lemon tub a number of years 
ago. Almost every year a few of them flower, but last fall we repotted 
the lemon as the tub it was in was coming apart and added some new soil. 
Apparently either the new soil and/or the dry spring has been to its 
liking as we have about 110 flower stalks (my husband counted for me) at 
the moment. I'm sure the roots of the lemon plant add some air and our 
summers are a bit cooler than a lot of California, but the pot gets 
watered a lot during our dry summers. I've attached a photo of it and 
the Brodiaea jolonensis that I photographed yesterday.

Sorry this is so long.

Mary Sue

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